Highlights from the 1976 Monstrous Regiment applications made to the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Gulbenkian Foundation:
‘We are a group of professionals (at the moment eight women and two men) who have an urgent desire to redress the balance of male/female status and opportunities in the theatre. At any one time, 91.5% of the Equity membership is unemployed. The latest survey shows that average annual earnings were £835; this average was based on male average earnings of £1,031, while for women it was £583. These figures force us to review the whole question of women in the theatre….These statistics graphically demonstrate the acuteness of the problem. Despite International Women’s Year and the Sex Discrimination Act, we don’t see any sign that directors and producers are even aware of the problem’s existence, let alone that they are attempting to do anything about it. So we feel that we are forced to ….The imbalance that we have experienced is not only in the scarcity of work but also in the quality of the work that is offered: there is no challenge, no satisfaction and above all no truth in representing women by an endless parade of stereotypes…. We can understand the motive behind the commercial theatre’s obsession with bare breasts and false eyelashes, but even in those areas where subsidy is supposed to foster a more intelligent approach we find too much of the same kind of thinking…We have created a nucleus of committed people…who will provide continuity of policy, and who will be directors of a non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee. However, we know that there are many who will have valuable contributions to make but who, because of other commitments, (in the case of women these are usually children) are unable to promise an undivided fifty-two weeks a year undertaking. We do not think they should be excluded because of this. We see as an important part of our work the creation of a flexible group of writers, performers, directors, etc. who will come together in workshops….it is essential that we should become a forum for ideas..
We intend to start fairly conventionally by seeking to establish ourselves on a well tried circuit and then to branch out into more difficult directions. In this we are pursuing the logical continuation of what we have been doing in our various spheres up till now. (The Liverpool Everyman, Incubus, the Combination, 7:84, Belt and Braces, etc.) As individuals we have experienced the problems of trying to reach a new audience and we do not underestimate them. However, we feel it is our task to try and expand these efforts into new areas…we want to find that audience which is to be found in launderettes or in front of television sets…Women in the past have tended to organise themselves for social purposes, and we intend to tap these organisations as well as those more usual ones structured round places of work or local issues. We are already booked to play in community centres around the Liverpool area and we will be working hard to expand our work in this direction…’
Taken from Gillian Hanna’s book Monstrous Regiment (Nick Hern Books 1991) reproduced here by kind permission of Nick Hern Books, Chris Bowler, Gillian Hanna and Mary McCusker.